Hoboken taxpayers may breathe a sigh of relief after the administration presented a preliminary municipal budget that would keep taxes stable.
The $118.3 million budget, introduced to the council on April 7, makes up for roughly $6.4 million in lost revenues caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic with $7 million of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan.
Last year Hoboken faced a multi-million-dollar budget gap caused by an increase in pension payments, health care, union contract payments, garbage hauling contracts, loss in revenues from court fees and the Hoboken Parking Utility, and lack of surplus regeneration.
The budget woes caused the city to increase the municipal tax levy by 7.5 percent.
“Despite the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, we’ve been able to right size our finances and establish a budget with no increase in municipal taxes,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “This budget is a critical step in our continued recovery from the pandemic, that provides much needed relief to residents, many of whom have been struggling over the past year. At the same time, we’re also ensuring that we continue to fund critical projects including the City’s water main replacements, repaving roads and advancing Vision Zero improvements, upgrading City parks, acquiring additional open space, and much more.”
“I also want to express my sincere thanks to Senator Menendez, Senator Booker and Congressman Sires for ensuring the American Relief Fund included funding for states and cities, which will play an important role in our city finances in the years ahead,” he added.
“Without that $6.5 million, we’d be having a totally different conversation tonight,” said Council President Ruben Ramos thanking congressional representatives for adopting the American Rescue Plan.
This year the municipal tax levy will remain stable, decreasing slightly from $60,701,986 to 60,701,787.
This means that a taxpayer of an average property assessed at $525,000 will pay approximately $2,688, a slight decrease from last year’s, $2,698.
The city will use about $8 million of the its surplus funds as revenues in the budget, down from the $9.8 million used last year, as well as about $3.2 million from the Hoboken Parking Utility, an increase from the $900,000 used the previous year.
As far as spending, according to Business Administrator Jason Freeman, personnel costs make up approximately 74 percent of appropriations.
The salaries and wages line items are increasing this year from $47.9 million to $51.4 million.
“The biggest piece of salary and wages increase is not really any new hires or things like that in the general city. Our police department is about 15 officers below the [Table of Organization] due to attrition, retirements, and things like that,” said Freeman “So, the big piece of the salary increase you’re seeing is related to new police department hires due to attrition.”
The Public Safety Department makes up about 74 percent of the city’s total spending on salaries and wages.
Freeman noted that statutory pension payments to the state went up about 10 percent from $12.8 million to $14.1 million.
Also included in the budget are various capital improvement projects like repaving approximately 75 blocks of roads, Vision Zero safety improvements, Northwest Resiliency Park construction, phase two of the water main replacement project, repairs to municipal garages, and various park improvements.
Before the budget is adopted on final reading, Hoboken will host several budget workshops with various city department heads to discuss the budgets of specific departments.
The council will have a budget hearing on May 5 at 7 p.m. to listen to public feedback.